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February 7, 2019

Battlefields tour makes lasting impression on Fearns pupils

FOUR hectic days touring battlefields helped two pupils from Fearns better understand the First World War.

Accompanied by Humanities teacher Miss Ashworth, Kalumn Ridgway, 15, and Dale Lord, 13,visited France and Belgium as part of the Wilfred Owen English Literature battlefields tour. 

Miss Ashworth said: “The pupils gained some first hand knowledge of what it wouldhave been like in the First World War trenches, as they walked around the recreated trench system at Passchendaele Memorial Museum in Zonnebeke, Belgium. 

“They then visited the German cemetery at Langemark and the British cemetery at Lijssenthoek, a former casualty clearing station, to see the contrast in how the dead are remembered in these two very different cemeteries. 

“At Lijssenthoek we found the grave of a local soldier, A Halstead, from Stacksteads and laid a cross of remembrance on behalf of the school.”

Dale,Dale Lord read a verse from Dulce et decorum est and was interviewed by a reporter from 5 Live at Ors at the Wilfred Owen commemoration service.

He said: “The part I will never forget is the contrast between the British cemetery and the German one.

“All the headstones were white and stood out in the British one, but the German cemetery was much smaller, dark, surrounded by trees because that indicates strength and many soldiers were buried together in the same tomb.

“I have always been interested in history and especially in modern wars; I am considering taking it as a GCSE.”

Kalumn will not forget the atmosphere at Menin Gate. He said: “We were with a coach full of pupils from several other schools and two names were selected to lay a wreath.

“Menin Gate was massive and full of names. It was very bright and when they played the Last Post people had their hands in the air videoing it.

“It was breathtaking and we felt so privileged to be there.”

Miss Ashworth said they made a very moving visit to the death cells and the shooting post where soldiers, many suffering from shell shock, were executed in Poperinge. 

At Essex Farm Cemetery,they explored where John McCrae was moved to write 'In Flanders Fields' and paid their respects at the grave of Valentine Joe Strudwick, a boy who was born on Valentine's Day and died on the battlefields aged just 15. 

Various readings were made by pupils on the trip at the different cemeteries where several of the war poets are buried. 

Miss Ashworth added: “Kalumn and Dale did a tremendous job of the extracts they read from Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. 

“The tour had a very touching and fitting end as we were privileged to attend the Wilfred Owen commemoration service at Ors on November4, the centenary of his death.”

On Armistice Day, air cadets Kalumn and Dale, also marched in Helmshore and Rawtenstall Remembrance Parades.